BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. — It’s never a great feeling when you open up a utility bill and it’s higher than you expected. But four or five times higher than normal?
It’s happening in Bonner Springs where some residents say they needed to sit down after seeing the charges on their last water bill.
The position of the city is that the spike in water bills are accurate. But many affected customers view them as unexpected and are having a hard time trusting what they owe after what the city describes as a technology failure.
Kim Hylton, who lives in the Lei Valley subdivision, said her water bill is typically below $150.
“And I was like, OK, open [my bill] up thinking nothing. And I saw ‘oh my gosh $627.38 or something like that,” Hylton said.
Now she, like many of her neighbors, are on the hunt for answers and receiving responses like this.
“‘Well you have been underbilled. You have been underbilled.’ But there was no timeframe that she told me we were underbilled,” Hylton said.
Megan Gilliland with the city of Bonner Springs said that the issue started in December 2022 when the company running the service allowing water meters to be read remotely stopped working.
“They had declared bankruptcy without any notice to their suppliers or to any of the cities that were affected,” Gilliland said.
More than 800 meters have the technology affected by that outage. The short-term solution is to have employees of the water utility check the meters manually, Gilliland said.
“Some people probably were not getting their meters read manually for a period of time. And for some people that could have been several months. So they’re basically getting a water bill that is capturing the actual amount of water that they used but weren’t billed for,” Gilliland said.
While the city is offering payment plans, other neighbors want more information before they pay – saying they’re having trust issues after receiving a surprise charge.
“One gentleman said he had to use 111,000 gallons of water to get where the bill was for him. 111,000 gallons? It doesn’t make sense,” Dan Wilson, who also lives in the Lei Valley neighborhood, said.
According to a letter from the city that explains the situation, Bonner Springs plans to have replacement meter reading technology, through a new company, installed by the end of the year. They will start by replacing the ones at-center of this problem.